Paul Spitzer ’68

We were very young, and Wesleyan gave us learning time with such accomplished people as historian Nathanael Greene and poet Richard Wilbur. That's how you set standards; I have since sought mentors and friends with those kinds of gifts.

   Prof. Wilbur introduced us to Walt Whitman's "Out of the cradle endlessly rocking...", from "Sea-Drift", in Leaves of Grass. Whitman used "Paumanok" (Long Island) mockingbirds as his metaphor for contact with life-forces. I was soon to live this with my Connecticut Osprey-DDT studies: "I a curious boy, peering, absorbing, translating." Climbing oaks, blackgums, and red cedars for those DDT-impacted thin-shelled osprey eggs; toting ladders all over the CT-LI salt marshes to access the nest poles. Whitman and Wilbur would have loved it. I still live and practice my field biology studies with a great deal of poetry. 

   The Wesleyan Biology Department encouraged and empowered me, giving me substantial research course credit for this work, which was to be my Ph.D. study in ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell.

   After an absence of 20 years, I visited the Wes campus for a few hours on Monday, August 27, 2012: a soft, late-summer day. I was totally moved to be there, surprised by the intensity of my remembrance and emotion. What a reverential job the architects have done, protecting posterity while creating modernity!!! I loved the way the north face of Olin Library has been enclosed with a new light-filled open structure. What a triumph!

   The profs and staff were mostly back, the students due in a couple days; so the campus had this extraordinary quiet, dreamlike quality; and I had easy access to current biology profs, whom I really liked: Ecology is being very well taught. I thought of my great biology profs, Earl Hanson, Spencer Berry, Austin Platt, John Burns, and Vincent Cochrane, and I realized I am keeping faith with them and Wesleyan as I continue my professional field studies in Conservation Biology, with no thought of retirement (which I can't afford to do anyway). 

   In Shanklin, the tall glass cases of ancient mounted birds that were present in 1968 are still there !!! I did have a mea culpa moment with that bird collection: I was allowed to "borrow" a fine Snowy Owl mount for an early, ineffective effort to trap male ospreys defending the nest (later it worked with a live Great Horned Owl). Alas, that owl never got back to the case. In his place among the owls perched a tropical forest Quetzal! (I searched my attic, and found that Old Owl carefully stored; so like the Davis Cannon he will eventually return to campus.) 

   I felt the fullness of my own life there long ago; and the intellectual and spiritual roots I set that have nourished me over the great sweep of time and life passed since then. And I sensed the fullness of so many lives at that great little University. You can see it in Nat Greene's face, in the fine alumni mag pic.


   It was truly Nonordinary Reality: A Magical, verging on Mystical, experience.